Ivan Sen is an Australian filmmaker whose latest feature film he directed, wrote, edited and composed the music and if that was not enough he was also the cinematographer. He describes it as a ‘genre film with a cultural perspective’, which he says makes it a little more unique and ultimately more interesting for its movie audience. It’s a story of mystery and intrigue that involves corruption, race relations, local politics and wild dogs! A modern day western emphasised by the dress code of the lead character with a style that references the look of the Coen's No Country for Old Men (2007) - it even has a spectacular gun fight!
Mystery Road (2013) is a murder mystery investigated by an indigenous detective Jay Swan, played by Aaron Pederson, an estranged family man with a young teenage daughter who lives with her mother Mary (Tasma Walton) and is running wild. Swan was born and lived in the area until he went away to a detective school. Ten years later he has returned to the community with the intent to make it a better place for his daughter to grow up. He’s back just in time to investigate the death of a young Aboriginal girl who has had her throat cut and her body hidden by the side of a desolate truckers highway in a storm drain. Swan’s has two main problems, the first is that individuals do not want to talk to him, including his own people who regard him as a turncoat, secondly the white dominated police force do not seem to want the crime solved!
The murder is based on a true incident involving a family member of Ivan Sen. It’s set in a nameless nondescript town but we know from the credits that it was filmed around the community of Winton, a town in Central West Queensland, and although the landscape has a certain raw beauty I don’t think the movie will attract many tourist to the area!
As with all his feature films Sen did his own casting but in this instance Pederson helped him with the selection of the young aboriginal children and the teenage girls, who play quite a big part in this story, all of whom had not acted before. The main roles in the movie are played by some very well known Australian actors including Ryan Kwanten as the small town bigot, an actor best known for his role as Sookie Stackhouse’s brother Jason in the award winning TV vampire drama True Blood and Hugo Weaving (Oranges and Sunshine 2010, Captain America: The First Avenger 2011) as the rather threatening white policeman Johnno, a character who we are never sure about?
A typical hard faced Australian crime drama that says more in its silent moments than some movies do in their complete running time, leaving the viewers at times to work things out for themselves which has the affect of drawing you in, making you a bystander rather than just part of a cinema audience. It is a very well made film with an Australian cast that fills ever part with authenticity. The Queensland landscape plays an important role in the story underlining the bleak natural countryside - you can taste the atmospheric dust as it rises from the outback roads. Not to be missed and highly recommended.